Marina del Rey residents wanting to preserve the Marina for what they say is its primary purpose — boating and recreation — took to the streets Saturday, May 13th, in protest of various proposed construction projects, including a freeway into the Marina.

Protesters gathered at the Marina del Rey Visitors Center at Admiralty and Mindanao Ways, across from the Waterside Marina Center, where they waved signs in opposition to more Marina development, before marching up Admiralty Way toward Mothers Beach.

“The Marina is turning into a developer’s paradise,” said D.G. Franklin, a 23-year Marina resident who lives aboard her 42-foot sailboat. “Marina del Rey needs to unify our community.

“We need to speak as one and bond together against overdevelopment.”

The protest march, organized by local groups, including the Coalition to Save the Marina, People Organized for Westside Renewal, and Marina residents and boaters, was in response to proposed projects such as the widening of Admiralty Way, the Marriott Residence Inn at Mothers Beach and the extension of the State Route 90 freeway into the Marina.

“We decided to finally get all of the stakeholders together as a cohesive group with a common message to the county bureaucrats that we don’t want a freeway in a public recreational area,” said Don Klein, Coalition to Save the Marina president.

“There’s no reason for a highway to come into a recreational area and take what open space we have,” he said. “It’s absurd and we don’t want it.”

Less than five percent of the existing land in the Marina is designated for open space, Klein said.

The Coalition to Save the Marina has created a mandate saying the primary use for Marina del Rey is boating and recreation, and that “public lands are for public use.”

Coalition members claim that the proposed development projects throughout the Marina and the Route 90 freeway extension will threaten the Marina’s recreational character by bringing in high-rise buildings and more traffic congestion and taking away open space.

The State Route 90 realignment project proposes connecting the freeway across Lincoln Boulevard through to Admiralty Way.

Under the project, Route 90 would be realigned between Mindanao Way and Lincoln Boulevard and the roadway would continue to Admiralty Way, either through a connector road or an existing surface street.

“The Marina is mostly water and boats, why put a freeway through here?” asked Gloria Davis of the Coalition to Save the Marina. “The Marina was designed for recreation and it’s ridiculous for it to be chopped up with a freeway through it.”

The Coalition helped organize the protest march to “bring attention” to developers and county officials about the residents’ concerns, Davis said.

“It’s time that the county government listens to the people,” Klein said. “We are the Marina and they must listen to us.”

While protesters claim that development in the Marina has “gotten out of control,” county officials insist that the projects planned are “well within” the limits of the Local Coastal Plan (LCP).

“With all that we’re contemplating in Marina del Rey, it’s only approaching 50 percent of the total cap within the LCP,” said Kerry Silverstrom, county Department of Beaches and Harbors chief deputy director.

The various projects planned by the county are part of the overall effort to upgrade the Marina, which is “aging and dated,” Silverstrom said. “We have to redevelop Marina del Rey. It is aging and the facilities are very old.

“We want to preserve and update the Marina but we also want to open it up to the broader public.”

Although the county plans to expand the Marina beyond just a community for boaters, officials are not looking to get rid of boating, Silverstrom said.

“The notion that we’re getting rid of recreational boating is not true,” she said.

The Marina currently has a 5.9 percent vacancy in slips for 18-to 25-foot boats, but county officials are hoping to provide more opportunity for boating through more dry-stack storage facilities that are planned, she said.

The county has also proposed an expansion of Burton Chace Park to help create additional areas of open space in the Marina, she said.

The proposed Route 90 freeway extension is only for “better access” into the Marina as an alternative to the Lincoln Boulevard corridor, Silverstrom said.

“It will only alleviate the load on Lincoln for people who want to come to Marina del Rey,” she said.

But many protesters disagreed, as a number of signs at the march were aimed at stopping the Route 90 extension.

Others said they were protesting primarily to keep the Marina exactly the way it is now.

“I like the Marina the way it is,” said Marina boater Ted Gillen, who held a sign saying, “Hi Rise equals No Sun.”

Klein said Marina Coalition members are amenable to some changes in the Marina, but they say that what has been proposed is “preposterous.”

County Supervisor Don Knabe said the public will have a chance to offer input on each of the proposed projects for the Marina before any decision is made.

“There will be a very public process,” Knabe said.